Sunday, July 15, 2012

Total Chaos: A Writer's View --- Part Three

In addition to creating and fleshing out the mercenary units, each author was also given a list of tracks to write intros and aftermaths for each one, as if the unit was part of the battle. Each author received about thirty or so tracks, with each intro a maximum of 150 words and the aftermath no more than 250 words.

We were given large latitude in what form we could use, as long as the intros were from the POV of a character in the battle. One of the Mercenary authors used multiple viewpoints in both introductions and aftermaths, while the other used the character POV for the intros and a summery of what happened from a third-person POV. All were valid ways of doing these small sections, and I think it helps give a more organic feel to the entries.

I took the tack of using entries from Gannon's journal for half the entries, and reports from a Wolfnet spy inside the Cannons. Half the introductions were from Gannon's journal, while the other half were excerpts from the reports from the Wolfnet spy, codenamed Ramrod. For the other half, I decided to use Ramrod's report excerpts as the intros and Gannon's journal entries for the aftermaths. I did it so whichever one was the aftermath became the POV for the next introduction. Simple, right?

Not really. Each intro and aftermath had a MAXIMUM word count of 150 to 250 words. For the intro, we have to give the track come context to the POV, a brief idea about what's happened to the unit at that moment in time, and establish something about the POV's character. The Aftermath, while a hundred words more, has to sum up the results of the track, give the reader some idea what happened and feed a little more about the POV character. There's only a few words you can devote to character development, so I had to spread out the character interaction over those intros and aftermaths

For Gannon, I made his entries direct fact, no truth-shading or excuses. When the Cannons fail a mission, he says so. When he expresses his opinion about someone, he doesn't pull punches. Gannon is a direct person, even in his personal journal.

Ramrod, on the other hand, is a Wolfnet agent, assigned to infiltrate the Cannons and find out if the Cannons were going to accept an offer from employment from Colonel Wayne Waco, only to find themselves stuck with the Cannons after the attack on Outreach. They spend fourteen years keeping Wolfnet up to date on the Cannons activities and sending data on the planet's situations and nuggets of intel for Wolfnet.

We didn't do all the tracks -- a number of tracks were created after we'd been assigned our tracks, so others wrote those intros and aftermaths. So, over these tracks, the reader catches a glimpse of these units personalities and how they survived fourteen years of intense warfare.

Next up -- writing textbook fiction....


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Total Chaos: A Writer's View, Part Two

I had more than just the Cannons to write for Total Chaos, but today I'll talk about how I gave life to Gannon's Cannons.

There were three of us writing up the mercenary units, each handling a mercenary unit. Each of us creating these units had only a couple of guidelines to go by, so we had free reign to create what we wanted for the most part. We had artist's notes describing both the commanding officer and the executive officer, and a rough description of what the unit consisted of at the start of the Jihad. For the Cannons's TO&E, I had the following: "This unit sports one lance of 'Mechs and one lance of vehicles." Our instructions were not to detail the unit, but to give anyone who wanted to use the unit a framework they could plug their own units into. We wanted to walk the like between structure and flexibility for the players.

But there were a few differences between the other authors and myself. Unlike the other two, I had a few more points to form the unit around:

1) The name of the unit would be Gannon's Cannons.
2) The commanding officer would be Gannon Derer.
3) Gannon's BattleMech would be a BattleMaster.
4) The Cannons' color scheme would be red/orange and black tiger-stripes.
5) This would be the "Good Guy" unit, one that had a sense of morality about it.

Other than those points, I had free reign.

The first thing I wanted to do was make the Total Chaos' Gannon like his real-life counterpart. TC's Gannon survived leukemia at an early age, and the fight for his life gave him the strength and determination to take on whatever life threw at him head-on. Everything else about TC's Gannon comes from that aspect of his personality. He doesn't expect to fail, but he also works hard to limit the chances of failure. No matter what happens on or off the battlefield, Gannon takes it head on. His leukemia, the loss of his grandmother's 'Mech, the near destruction of the Grave Walkers, every setback he's faced doesn't break him. I also decided that the Cannons were brand new to the Battletech universe, so the fan can see the unit from the beginning.

A word here about the other two authors: beyond a few general emails with Ben about common topics, we didn't discuss what we were doing with each unit. Originally, all three of the mercenary units had Federated Suns roots(!), which would have been a bit bias. Since the other two had Federated Suns planets mentioned as their homeworlds, it was a simple thing to make Gannon from the Lyran Commonwealth, as he was already over there. (I also noticed that all three mercenary commanders wanted to use Mister Askai, the broker, as target practice. Hmmm.....)

I wanted Gannon to have some experience as a soldier before he formed the Cannons. That meant he couldn't be some new guy on the scene, but someone who was a veteran, though a young one. Someone who had held company command, but not in a no-name unit. On the other hand, it wouldn't fit for Gannon to be a member of a unit like the Kell Hounds or Wolf's Dragoons, as they were too well-known and didn't fit Gannon's personality. I also wanted him to easily leave the unit.

The Grave Walkers fit the bill as a known mercenary unit who were nearly destroyed by the Jade Falcons. So, I made Gannon a captain in the Grave Walkers -- establishing him as an experienced commander, gave him an intense dislike of the Jade Falcons, and a good reason to leave the unit. He leaves the unit not out of disgust or hate, but because he knows that without a 'Mech, he's useless to the Grave Walkers, a drain on tight resources. So, he's willing to leave and allow those who remain a slightly larger share of the tight resources.

He's on Arc-Royal, dispossessed, without any future, but Gannon isn't the type who sits and bemoans his fate. He takes a few jobs and goes back to school, and learns to be a better mercenary.

I also wanted Gannon to be an able administrator and well-versed in running a unit. The schooling on Arc-Royal gave him the foundation, and the two years as the Cavaliers' administrator gave him the practical experience. The BattleMaster came into play here as Gannon's new ride. Changing the Cavaliers to the Cannons gave Gannon a core of experienced soldiers who had worked together.

While I started Gannon on Arc Royal, the Cannons' first mission was far away from that part of the Inner Sphere, only two Jumps from Outreach. So I needed to take the unit from Arc-Royal started the Cannons on Outreach. I decided the unit would be the Cannons when they reached Outreach, and let the Cavaliers disappear into history

So, I have a young, through experienced, CO. Now I needed an executive officer. From the start, I toyed with the idea that she was from the Clans. Which Clan? Wolf Clan-in-Exile seemed like a starting point, but what sort of person is she? The artist description mentions she has a broken nose. Broken nose? That told me she is a brawler, which led me to her being a freebirth, use to fighting and clawing her way through every moment of her life. Made her good enough to get a command, but unlucky enough to lose it. For reasons I won't go into here, I needed her on Outreach, as a member of Wolf's Dragoons when Gannon showed up.

From these thoughts, Amanda Wolf was created.I named her Amanda after a friend of mine, a woman who had several hard patches in her life, but has managed to get through them with her sanity and warmth of personality intact. Like both Gannons, both Amandas are survivors and that is an important quality in this time of Battletech history.

Next post, creating Cannons history a couple of hundred words at a time.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Total Chaos: A Writer's view, Part One -- Background

If you have read the New Total Chaos book or have been reading Ben Rome's series about putting Total Chaos together, then you've seen some of my latest writing.

When the requests for pitches went out among the authors, I pitched for all three mercenary units. And when the units were assigned, I ended up getting Gannon's Cannons. It was then I realized I had been given a great honor. Because Gannon Derer isn't just a mercenary commander, but a brave and strong little boy.

Bill Derer, Gannon's dad, is a Catalyst Games agent, one of the small band of dedicated people who demostraite Battletech and the other games in CGL's line. He's active on the official Battletech forums, as Slade the Gray Fox, and from the few interactions I've had with him, he's a nice guy. (And Bill, if you read this, my Dad's family's from Norristown!)

More than a year ago, Gannon contracted leukemia. It's bad when you get news like that, but when you're six-years old? But they caught it early enough and Gannon had good doctors and a strong family to help him through this rough time.

Well, word got out among CGL's freelancers and agents. And being the great people they are, they contributed in their own way -- they sent Gannon battlemech minis painted up in his favorate color scheme. Soon, Gannon had his own battalion of BattleMechs and vehicles. Sometime during this period, "Gannon's Cannons" was born as a name (I kind of remember hearing about how that happened, but I'm not sure if either my memory or the story is right, so I won't repeat it here at this time.)

The Cannons made their first apperence in Field Manual 3085, under the list of mercenary units working for the Lyran Commonwealth. But when Ben Rome decided to included new mercenary units with Total Chaos, he decided from ther start that Gannon's Cannons would be one of those units, in honor of Gannon.

Gannon is now free of his leukemia and is working on becoming a clever Battletech player. I was honor to given the chance to flesh out the unit and give it life. The artwork for the unit is magnificent, and I hope you like what I did.

I'll explain my process about creating the Gannon's Cannons in my next blog post.